A survivor of the Manchester Arena bombing said today that bravery awards given to emergency workers were an ‘insult to our injury’, as he revealed how his teenager daughter was presumed dead and covered over with T-shirts and posters in the aftermath before going on to make a ‘miracle’ recovery.
Martin Hibbert, 44, fell to the ground with his daughter, Eve, then 14, as Salman Abedi detonated his suicide bomb around 15ft (5m) away in the City Room foyer at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.
Mr Hibbert, from Chorley, Lancashire, suffered 22 shrapnel wounds including one which hit the centre of his back and totally severed his spinal cord, the public inquiry into the terror attack heard.
He said where he was standing had meant he shielded Eve from the blast but one bolt got past him and struck her which caused a ‘very significant’ brain injury, ‘almost like she had been shot through the head’.
Mr Hibbert also said it was adding ‘insult to our injury’ for the families of the deceased and survivors that medals had been given to ‘certain professionals where the evidence shows their professional and moral duty was not acted upon appropriately’.
Giving evidence, Mr Hibbert said of the blast: ‘I hear an almighty bang. I’m interested in military history and that’s how I kind of rationale [sic] in terms of how it felt and how it sounded, but if you’ve watched war movies and World War Two movies, that almost high pitched sound and a disorientation, that’s what it felt like.
‘I felt like I’d been hit by a ten-tonne truck. I was panicking because I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I remember falling to the ground and just not knowing really instantly what happened but I knew something serious had happened.
‘I can see that I’m losing a lot of blood, I’m choking on blood, and I can see a very big pool of blood. I didn’t know at the time I’d suffered so many injuries, but I knew I was losing a lot of blood. And that’s when I saw…’
Martin Hibbert posted this picture of him with his daughter Eve on Twitter on May 22, 2021, which was the fourth anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing. In the caption, he said: ‘Picture taken at 6.46pm on 22/5/2017 in @SanCarlo_Group (San Carlo Restaurants) and just before we made our way over to watch Ariana Grande at the Arena. Less than four hours after this picture was taken we were both fighting for our lives. Always a tough day to get through, I’ll be raising a glass for the 22’
Martin Hibbert, 44, gave evidence to the Manchester Arena Inquiry today and revealed how he was ‘choking on blood’
At this point Mr Hibbert had to pause, before continuing as he said: ‘I could see she (my daughter Eve) had taken… it was almost like she had been shot through her head, and I could see her brains.
‘She was bleeding and she was gasping for breath. So I could see she was dying in front of my eyes, and I knew that I was dying. But, a lot of people have asked me… I wasn’t in any pain, I wasn’t panicking.’
Mr Hibbert also said that as he lay next to Eve, he looked over and ‘one moment she was there, I could see her and the next minute she was fully covered’. He said he witnessed her head being covered up on two occasions.
Mr Hibbert said: ‘It was obvious people thought she had died but, given that I was close to her, I could see even though I knew she was dying she was still breathing and and you could see that, it was almost gasping for breath.
‘So it was not like you are ‘asleep’, breathing where you could maybe get it mixed up. You could see her lips quivering and really gasping for breath. That was always a big frustration of mine that, if I had lost consciousness, Eve wouldn’t be here.’
Mr Hibbert (right) told the inquiry today that he suffered 22 shrapnel wounds including one which hit the centre of his back
He added: ‘People were looking at her injury and saying that it was not survivable and they just covered her up even though she was alive and they weren’t qualified to make that kind of choice.
‘Even if they were, you do your damnedest to ensure survivability and preservation of life.
‘You don’t make that decision yourself and walk away. I don’t think I will ever get my head around that. I have spoken to medics and other emergency professionals and they can’t believe that has happened.’
It was up to an hour before they were moved out of the City Room and up to another hour before Mr Hibbert and his daughter were taken to separate hospitals.
Mr Hibbert said: ‘Given her injuries it’s just baffling why she was not put into an ambulance straightaway from the City Room and again it’s just a miracle she is still with us given the extent of her injuries …the fact we are still in the vicinity nearly two hours later, there are just no words for it.’
The scene close to Manchester Arena following the terror attack after an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017
The football agent said he owed his life to paramedic Paul Harvey who went against instructions to take him to Wythenshawe Hospital and instead headed to Salford Royal Hospital, a shorter journey, where a major trauma unit was based.
He told the inquiry that Eve, now 18, was at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital for 10 months.
He said: ‘I have recently been told that the coroner actually was ringing Eve’s ward every day. We believe she is the only person to survive that injury in the world.
‘There has been a paper written on her, so if anybody else suffers that injury they know how to care for them and get them through it.
Actor Chris Hemsworth invited Mr Hibbert to the next Thor premiere in London after they met in Australia where he was receiving treatment for his spinal injuries
‘Initially, when I first saw her, I was told she would probably be in a vegetative state, she probably wouldn’t be able to see, hear, speak, move. She probably wouldn’t have any memory.
‘I think what the medics didn’t realise is that they were dealing with a Hibbert and we are a bit stubborn. She can see, she can hear, she can now talk, she is eating.
‘I have got a beautiful video that I’d love to show you one day of her actually walking now unassisted, she makes me proud every day.’
Mr Hibbert said his daughter would need care for the rest of her life and that Eve’s mother, Sarah, had to give up her job to be her full-time carer.
Mr Hibbert is confined to a wheelchair following the bombing. He is pictured riding in a custom-built handbike, which he plans to use to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in September to raise money for others with spinal injuries
He said: ‘But she is still there, it’s still Eve, she is still alive and I keep telling her she will inspire the world when she is ready to do it. She is a little princess.’
Mr Hibbert, who is confined to a wheelchair, went on: ‘I am just thankful to be alive and to be here so I’ll take it because I know there are 22 families that weren’t so lucky.’
He stated: ‘When the inquiry ends myself, my daughter, her mum and my wife will still be living our forever changed realities. Over four years on I have yet to have my home adapted to better cope with my injuries.
‘I am lucky that I am a relatively young man and have good upper body strength but I still have ongoing complications and I fear how my life will change as I age, and my daughter also needs lifelong care.’
Source: Daily Mail